Vegan MoFo Day 16 – Your Typical Weeknight Meal. . .

. . . If your typical Monday brings you home at 3:00pm and you don’t have to be back at work until 11:00am the following day. Maybe this isn’t so “typical.” The in-progress title that I chose to go without: Clusterfuck Pizza. Because the toppings are just a little on the random side.

wpid-20140915_175438.jpg

My main motive for this pizza (besides pizza being the best ever meal), is that I wanted to bake. I wanted to bake something nice and yeasty. The fact I have new-to-me Vegan Pizza was a smaller factor.

My current flour stock has a whole wheat to all purpose ratio of about five to one. I have nearly-full bags of whole wheat and white whole wheat flour, plus about half a bag’s worth of whole wheat pastry. I only have half a bag’s worth of white flour, which I use a lot more of. . . obviously. So a crust that’s whole wheat to white in a ratio of 2-1 is just perfect for what I have. Enter the whole white wheat crust! Tasty, and it barely even looks different than a white crust.

My only complaint on this recipe is. . . No knead? Really? I tried using a fork as directed, but after about half of the flour was incorporated, I found it necessary to knead the dough to get the rest of the flour in. I’m not complaining – I love to knead. But I can see someone expecting a hands-free crust getting a little frustrated.

wpid-20140915_175415.jpg

I flipped through the book for appetizing combinations but nothing really caught my fancy, so instead I went to my fridge for inspiration. My last pizza had been straight-up veggie and while that’s fine, I was craving a more meaty pizza. Enter seitan – I’m pretty sure it’s the Isa Does It simmered seitan, but I rotate between so many that I could be wrong. I let it marinate in liquid smoke and “pizza seasoning” – it gave it a flavor that was a mix between pepperoni and italian suasage (my favorite pairing!). For veggies, I used spinach, black olives, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh (seeded) jalapeno.

Un-pictured because sauces make for boring pictures: the red sauce from the book (using both the oil and tomato paste variations) and an impromptu cheeze sauce made with leftover Toffutti, silken tofu, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil.

wpid-20140915_182916.jpg

Here’s my little pizza ready to go. I sprayed the crust with oil before topping to prevent the sauce from absorbing – a little “trick” that I find to be necessary 99% of the time. Cornmeal and a pizza stone: also beneficial (though a cookie sheet will still make decent enough pizza in a pinch).

wpid-20140915_185917.jpg

Here it is fresh out of the oven. Yummy! I was shocked (and happy) to see that the Tofutti sauce browned, bubbled, and formed a skin! It still wasn’t as good as cashew creme, but if you’re out of cashews. . . Do what you need. This was a nice alternative, but not “perfect” – so no recipe.

wpid-20140915_191043.jpg

Here you have the one and only photogenic slice. I was impatient and cut into the pizza immediately after it came out of the oven. Yeah, um. If you like pizza to be pretty and not a mushy mess. . . Don’t do that.

Vegan on a Budget – Local Store Guide

Ethical living doesn’t have to be expensive, in terms of animal cruelty. You just need to learn to rethink your shopping.

When I first went vegan, I broke the bank. I bought everything I found with that beautiful vegan label. I ate out constantly, not knowing how to prepare enough vegan meals to get me by. Over the following months, however, I learned how to rethink my shopping.

This is something of a regional guide. Not all stores I mention here will be available in your area. Maybe none will be. Maybe only Walmart will. But this is all based on what I found, shopping in my Nevada town.

The (Major) Stores – In Order of Region 

  • Scolari’s and Sak N Save: the only true local store to my area, headquartered in Sparks, NV.
  • Save Mart  (known in some regions as Lucky, FoodMaxx): Northern California and Northern (western) Nevada only.
  • Rayley’s (known in some regions as Bel Air, Nob Hill): Northern California and “Northern” Nevada
  • WinCo: West. Specifically. . . Washington-idaho-nevada-California-oregon. . . (or Winning Company, if you want to be technical) But then Utah and Arizona came along and ruined everything.
  • Smith’s: extension of Kroger, a national chain. (Per wiki, Smith’s is in the southwest and Rockies.)
  • Safeway: international chain. (U.S. and Canada)
  • Trader Joe’s: national chain.
  • Whole Foods: international chain. (U.S. and U.K.)
  • Walmart: international super-chain. (I’m sure you know just how global they truly are.)

Scolari’s/Sak N Save
As I mentioned, I do not shop at these stores. I never have, since moving to the area. My reasons are simple: price. Sak N Save is apparently the “cheap” version of Scolaris (which I have literally never shopped at), and I can count the times I have shopped there on one hand. The prices, I’ve found, are always inferior, and they don’t even have great quality to back it up. I’ve shopped there only once since going vegan, when my boyfriend had a job interview at a neighboring store. I picked up this cookie:

image

Which was great. Like a vegan, extra nutritious cookie from Pepperidge Farms. But in the future, if I really have a hankering, I’ll pick it up at Whole Foods. It’s conveniently at the front of the store near the buffet, with other single serving snacks.

Save Mart
I shop here often, but not much in terms of dollars spent. It’s basically the neighborhood grocery. . . the closest grocery store to my house, my boyfriend’s house, my mother’s house. . . And my office is even a stone’s throw away from a Save Mart parking lot!

Not my favorite in terms of price, but sometimes you can’t beat convenience. I’ve been known to grab a can of peas or frozen dinner, every now and then. For being the neighborhood grocery store, it’s actually pretty vegan friendly (just. . . again. . . not wallet friendly).

Every Save Mart I’ve stepped in has had at least one vegan ice cream, and one variety of Veganaise. Many have a variety of Tofurky products and one Earth Balance margarine. Some even have “Go Veggie!” shreds. I can even count on them to have a pint of Silk creamer in vanilla, just in case I forgot a quart from Whole Foods.

Last night, while picking up chips, I found even more goodies!

image

Vastly superior “barista style” creamer (at barista style prices).

image

Vegan mylk chocolate? I may or may not have impulsively grabbed the crunch bar. . .

image

And last but not least, Enjoy Life chips! I’ve never seen them in store before, and I’ve always wanted the adorable chunks! Of course, with the price, we’re talking Christmas cookie treat only.

Sidenote: my hometown Redding is home to a Food Maxx, which is basically nothing like Save Mart at all. The prices are better with a worse selection: wallet friendly, not so much vegan friendly.

Rayley’s
I NEVER shop here. I loved this little store when I was a young vegetarian in Redding, as they have an extensive natural foods extension, and will still cost you less than a local organic store or co-op. However, if you have a Whole Foods, shop there. Rayley’s is ridiculously expensive on these items. It’s really sad when Whole Foods is your bargain! The only thing I like about RaYley’s is they have a good Tofutti selection, including their version of drumsticks and their American cheeze slices. Are these treats fun? Yes. Are they worth going down there more than once or twice a year? No.

image

Well. . . almost. . .

Winco Foods
It just might kill me not to turn this into an Ode to Winco. I have mentioned plenty of times how I much I love this store, however, so I won’t bore you too much.

As far as vegan specialties go, their selection is “meh.” Great selection on Boca and Tofurky, but the only cheeze is Go Veggie! cream cheese (bird poo when compared to Tofutti). They have Silk yogurts in blueberry and strawberry, which is great. And they have your standard mylks: Silk and Almond Breeze, and sell both brands’ iced coffees at a great deal.

However, I shop here for the prices. They are, hands down, the cheapest place to shop. This is also the case in Redding, and I’m going to make a bold statement: if you have a WinCo in your town, it will be cheaper than any other store and you should drop your routine and make them your number one store. Seriously. Just do it.

They have cheaper prices on brand names, like Quaker and Sara Lee. They have cheap prices on their generic brand Hy-Top. Most of my pantry items are Hy-Top labeled. They have amazing prices on produce (without sacrificing quality).

Most importantly: their bulk foods section is of the gods. I laugh in the face of boxed pastas and bags of beans and grains. If I already have a dedicated bottle, McCormick and etc. make me giggle. If you want natural nut butter, you can grind peanuts and almonds fresh and take it straight home. Every granola you can imagine, including several that are vegan-friendly, they got you covered. Pet food? You’re good. Every and all flour or sugar you could need? Including ORGANIC sugar (and thus bone char free)? Yes indeed.

The only complaint about WinCo is about staffing. You don’t want to shop there when SNAP, Social Security, and WIC are processed. You are best to avoid it on the weekends, if possible. You have to bag your own goods. But if you’re lucky to bring home $1000 dollars a month, you’re not going to care.

Smiths
I never shop here and can’t speak for prices. I have shopped there once since going vegan, to pick up a bag of Dorritos in order to break a $20. It has never been in my interest to return. They seemed to be pretty medium-priced, and they’re not anywhere near my neighborhood.

Safeway
I never shop here. I went there once or twice when I was living in Pacifica, but that’s about it. Out of my price range and neighborhood.

Trader Joe’s
I shop here maybe once every month or two. It’s a great place to get cheap ice cream, cheeze, and cream cheeze. Their prices on sliced sourdough will make San Luis hang his head in shame. I used to love their veggie sushi, but they changed the recipe to worship mushrooms. They also have the best prices for individual Luna bars, and have good deals on natural toiletries. They also have fun things like fancy alcohol, chocolate, and “butters” (ie: pumpkin, speculoos). They sell cheap versions of expensive things, but I don’t often have the time to stop by. If I race against the clock and bring along an insulated grocery bag, I might shop here on the same day as Whole Foods, since they’re only a few blocks apart.

Whole Foods
I shop here for only the most specialized of specialty vegan foods, and only once a month. . . Unless I crave ice cream or run out of a toiletry.

They’re the best place in town to buy your vegan mayonnaise, margarine, and cheeze. The selection is amazing, and is often cheaper than at a “normal” grocery store. You will never (ever) see me grab an apple or bag of rice from this store, but over time, I’ve learned how to use Whole Foods to my advantage.

If you like something that isn’t available generic elsewhere, but is at Whole Foods: choose the 365 version. It’s going to be cheaper than the brand name, at least with mylk and vegan toiletries. I bought shampoo yesterday, and I could have sworn from the price tag I was purchasing Tresseme. I picked up vanilla soymilk for a friend: $1.67 for one quart.

Also, they’re more likely than other stores to have vegan items on sale or with store coupon. Yesterday, they were selling So Delicious almond milk (my favorite) for $1.57 per quart. I bought all my arms could carry! (Even Walmart should be hanging their head in shame!)

Just stay clear of the packaged vegan foods, and you’ll be fine. Unless you like buying frozen pizza for $8, or ice cream for $6. Then why are you reading this guide? (I say as if I have never done that myself.)

Walmart
I shop here fairly often, somewhere between the frequency/dollars of WinCo and the natural chains. I probably don’t need to tell you much about them: they’re cheap. They’re convenient in that you can buy literally anything else your heart can think of while you’re there. Their Great Value brand is affordable.

More vegan-friendly than I would think. . . Some Light Life items by the tofu, plenty of mylk (including my favorite!). What can I say? It’s Walmart. You’re going to save money.

image

Apparently So Delicious’ Barista Style creamer is really hitting it mainstream.

Sidenote: Scroll up and compare to Save Mart. Yeah. I should have captured Whole Foods when I was stocking up on mylk. Oh well. I’m pretty sure it’s closer to Walmart’s price, or at least it was when I last purchased it.

image

A typical Maddie haul, with admittedly ambiguous Skittles. And Soy Nog! I can’t wait to rip into it and review. 

That’s all for now. Next week, I plan on sharing some more frugal tips. Stay tuned!